By Bliss Bowen

KHRUANGBIN, “Late Night Tales: Khruangbin”

(Late Night Tales): 3½

The Houston instrumental trio offers a worldly perspective on nocturnal music with its “gulf stream”-influenced curation of the Late Night Tales series’ latest edition. Tripping through Asian disco, R&B-infused Ethiopian dance, ’70s Spanish pop, Vegas-style Belarusian folk, and Nigerian reggae (Maxwell Udoh’s “I Like It [Don’t Stop],” a highlight), the strongest tracks smolder close to home: Khruangbin’s seductive dip into Kool & the Gang’s groover “Summer Madness;” Houston dub outfit Brilliantes Del Vuelo’s “I Know That (When the Spring Time Comes);” and Texan storyteller Tierney Malone’s velvety reading, backed by banjoist Geoffrey Muller, for the Erik Satie-inspired “Transmission for Jehn: Gnossienne No 1”—a hypnotic continuation of LNT’s spoken-word tradition.


(Stony Plain): 4

A zesty platter of ’50s-style R&B seasoned with Dave Bartholomew, Al King, Roy Milton and Ike Turner chestnuts, plus Robillard’s similarly flavored compositions. The Grammy-nominated Roomful of Blues founder’s romping call-and-response exchanges with organist Bruce Bears and a three-piece horn section constitute a clinic on guitar taste and harmony, while his 10-minute jam “Just Chillin’” evokes those show-closing numbers when every player steps up to solo and dancers press close to the stage. RIYL Roomful of Blues, Jimmie Vaughn, “West Coast House Party”-era Kid Ramos.

JULES SHEAR, “Slower” (Funzalo): 4

“Tomorrow you’ll feel better/ If it only comes:” The poetic songwriter opens with the melodic “Sugar All Day,” setting a tone of hope streaked with melancholy (and vice versa), and sounding like Elvis Costello backed by John Sebastian’s Toots Thielemans on down-at-heels harmonica. Piano-centered arrangements and the recording’s warm immediacy enhance confessional standouts “Feels Like Fall,” “One Pretty Please” and cocktail ballad “Today Like Tomorrow.” The Bangles and Cyndi Lauper, among others, built careers with Shear’s songs in the 1980s and ’90s; his wit cuts through punchy single “Smart,” but he mostly contemplates time, expectations, and choices in this filler-free set.

BO ARMSTRONG, “Chasing Ballads”

(Tough Cut): 3

The title speaks truth: the Texas-raised teacher turned Nashville bard’s strong suit is ballads. The pedal steel-polished arrangements of the title track, “Mama Sway,” “Where Are You Lonesome?” (a slow-burn duet with Taylor Stearns) and “Wearing Out These Wings” complement Armstrong’s flannel-warm vocal delivery and comforting lyrics, which celebrate humble life moments (“The way that you move is steady and true/ You shine like the breaking of day”). He doesn’t reshape the country wheel, but his flannel-warm vocals and melodies should hit a sweet spot for listeners in the mood for mellow vibes and gratitude.